Russian President Vladimir Putin has scoffed at former FBI director James Comey’s disclosure of his conversations with US President Donald Trump, saying the move has made Mr Comey eligible for political asylum in Russia.
- Vladimir Putin likens James Comey to Edward Snowden
- Mr Putin says US has sought to influence Russian elections
- Russian President deplores new US sanctions
Mr Putin, speaking in a live call-in show with the Russian nation, likened Mr Comey to NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has been living in Russia since being granted asylum in 2013.
“It looks weird when the chief of a security agency records his conversation with the commander-in-chief and then hands it over to media via his friend,” Mr Putin said.
“What’s the difference then between the FBI director and Mr Snowden?
“In that case he’s more of a rights campaigner defending a certain position than the security agency chief.”
Mr Putin went further, offering Mr Comey Moscow’s help if he needed it.
“[If Mr Comey] faces some sort of persecution in connection with that, we are ready to offer political asylum in Russia to him as well,” he said sarcastically.
The remarks reflected Mr Putin’s annoyance with the congressional and FBI investigations into links between Trump campaign officials and Russia, which have haunted the White House, shattering Moscow’s hopes for improving ties with Washington.
The Russian President reaffirmed his denial of meddling in the US election, saying that Russia has openly expressed its views and has not engaged in any covert activities.
He also attempted to turn the tables on the US, saying it has sought to influence Russian elections by funding NGOs as part of its aspirations for global domination.
“Turn a globe and point your finger anywhere, you will find American interests and interference there,” he said.
On a conciliatory note, Mr Putin added that Russia still hoped for normalisation of ties with the US.
He said Moscow and Washington could cooperate in efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and pool efforts to tackle the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.
He said the two countries could also cooperate in dealing with global poverty and efforts to prevent climate change.
Putin hits out at more US sanctions
Vladimir Putin hit out at the US Senate’s decision to impose more sanctions on Russia. (AP: Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin)
Mr Putin also noted that Moscow hoped the US could play a “constructive role” in helping settle the Ukrainian crisis.
During a tightly-choreographed marathon TV show, an annual affair that lasts hours, Mr Putin said that Russia had climbed out of recession despite continuing Western sanctions, adding the restrictions forced the country to “switch on our brains” to reduce dependence on energy exports.
He deplored the US Senate’s decision on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Russia as a reflection of Western efforts to “contain” Russia, but insisted that the measures only made the country stronger.
The Republican-led Senate voted to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging package of sanctions that target key sectors of Russia’s economy and individuals who carried out cyberattacks.
The Senate bill follows up on several rounds of other sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
Mr Putin argued that Russia had done nothing to warrant the Senate’s move, saying it highlighted the West’s policy of containing Russia and also reflected domestic infighting in the United States.
“It’s evidence of a continuing internal political struggle in the US,” he said.
Russia has responded to the US and EU sanctions by halting most Western food imports, a move that has helped increase Russian agricultural output.
Most of the questions during the show were about low salaries, decrepit housing, failing health care and other social problems.
As in the past, Mr Putin chided local officials for failing to provide due care for people and ordered them to quickly fix the flaws.